Is Mold Making You Sick?

Q: I was reading a previous Q&A where someone inquiring about chronic pain said she had tested high for mycotoxins. Is this something you are familiar with? Does this diagnosis indicate that the person has a fungal overload in their body? Thank you for clarifying this – I appreciate the information as we all try to heal from unknown causes of pain in our bodies (I’m suffering from Interstitial Cystitis or IC). Thank you! – B

Lisa Lilienfield, M.D.: Mycotoxins are secondary metabolites (organic compounds that are not directly involved in the normal growth, development, or reproduction of an organism) of molds that can have toxic effects on animals and humans1. Exposure to mycotoxins in the home is mostly by inhalation, but it can also occur from ingestion or physical contact. Depending on the kind and length of exposure, mycotoxins can cause acute or chronic illness. Genetics can also influence whether or not a person will suffer ill-effects – some people are genetically able to metabolize toxins, while others are not.

Headaches and migraines, muscle and/or joint pain, cough, shortness of breath, vision problems, recurring sinus infections, and even short-term memory loss, and depression are common symptoms of mycotoxicosis. However, these symptoms are also common to a variety of other disease conditions, meaning that toxicity is often overlooked as a potential underlying cause of illness. This can leave a person who is searching for a diagnosis feeling hopeless.

The mycotoxin test we recommend to our patients is done by a specialized and independent lab, and looks for exposure and accumulation of either airborne mold toxins (such as black mold toxin or aspergillosis), or toxins found in certain foods such as aflatoxin and ochratoxin, which are commonly found in wheat, barley, corn, and peanuts. If mycotoxins are the cause of your illness, your treatment plan should be tailored to take consideration of your overall medical history, current symptoms, genetic makeup, history of exposure, and lifestyle.

A mycotoxin treatment protocol at Kaplan Center includes using binding agents like clay, charcoal, or bile acid sequestrants (which require a prescription) to accelerate the removal of toxins through the gut. In addition, supplements to support the liver, such as omega-3 fatty acids, chlorella, magnesium, D-ribose, N-acetal cysteine, glutathione, and vitamin-C, can help in the detoxification process. (Nutrients like magnesium, glutathione, and vitamin-C can also be given intravenously in higher doses than can be tolerated orally.)

Things You Can Do to Help The Detoxification Process

  • Eliminate mold exposure. Talk to a professional mold removal service or indoor health specialist in your area immediately if you suspect that you have mold in your home.
    Examine your diet. If mycotoxin exposure appears to be rooted in a food source, such as aflatoxin or ochratoxin, an amylose-free diet (a diet low in sugar, grains, and tubers) may be helpful.
  • Try a complementary therapy. Meditation, acupuncture, or Osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) can provide significant relief from the symptoms and side-effects of the detoxification process.

– Dr. Lisa Lilienfield, M.D.

If you think you have been exposed to toxins that are affecting your health, call and speak with a nurse today: 703-532-4892, ext. 2.



1 M. Peraica, B. Radic, A. Lucic, et al. Toxic effects of mycotoxins in humans. Bulletin of the World Health Organization. 1999, 77 (9)